REED CITY — Hundreds of active and former cancer patients gathered Monday morning to celebrate life and survivors.
Around 200 patients and their families attended the 5th Annual Cancer Survivors Day Celebration at the Susan Wheatlake Cancer Center on June 11.
Organizers served lunch, a cake dessert and other refreshments to current and former patients and offered services like massage, reflexology and acupressure therapy. Other activities included a photo booth and a presentation on chiropractic services.
Cancer Survivors Day has been observed at the Wheatlake Center since it was opened in 2013. The purpose for the event is to give past and former cancer patients an opportunity to meet with other survivors, share their stories and enjoy a day filled with activities that promote comfort and well-being, Director of the Susan Wheatlake Cancer Center Irene Balowski said.
“One of the reasons we host a Survivorship Day annually is to send a message of hope and to focus on survivorship. You’re a survivor from day one of diagnosis,” she said.
In the past, Balowski said, cancer treatment was focused on combating the disease and gave little attention to patient comfort and wellness. Oftentimes, a patient’s identity became attached to the disease they were fighting, but now the focus has expanded to include comfort, quality of life and promoting wellness during survivorship.
“It’s not just focusing on treatment, it is treating patients holistically,” she said.
Educating patients on various integrative modalities available to them as they undergo treatment, offers additional ways that may improve their quality of life, improve mood and potentially ease treatment side effects.
Around 60 to 70 patients come into the facility every day out of the hundreds of active patients. One of them is Joyce Coulson, of Lakeview, who said she has been a patient at the center since October 2017 although she has been battling cancer much longer.
She came to participate in the activities and talk to some of the other patients.
“You live one day at a time. That’s all we have anyway. We forget that. It reminds us to be happy now and enjoy yourself,” she said.
Coulson said events like this are important because it gives patients the chance to share their experience.
“It helps you and them because they realize they’re not the only ones going through these things,” she said.
Also attending the event was former patient Joyce Weaver, who completed her treatment more than a decade ago but still comes to the celebration offers support to current patients.
She said attending events like this makes treatment easier for patients.
“You realize you can still live a normal life,” she said. “But you have to live like you mean it.”
Promoting “integrative therapies” such as reflexology, massage therapy and others to improve quality of life during treatment is important to us, Balowski said, and a focus on prevention is also part of our program.
The center continues to hold free cancer screenings and a focus has been put on lifestyle and wellness.
One way she hopes to expand access to wellness activities is by working with Susan Wheatlake in constructing a walking path on the facility’s property, to be called the “Wellness Path”.
“A walking path would be used to encourage mild exercise and the spiritual dimension of care as a venue for quiet reflection and meditation, and would be used in our Survivorship program and Celebrations,” Balowski said.
The hope is to have the path installed by next spring.